While the holiday season might be characterized by some as 'the most wonderful time of the year', it can be 'the most challenging time of the year' to stick to your regular running routine. Between inclement weather, shorter days, longer nights, holiday parties, and a litany of other challenges, it's easy to let your hard earned running fitness fall by the wayside.
But, with a little creativity and perseverance, your running fitness doesn't have to take a major hit during the holidays. Read on for a few of my 'hacks' for maintaining your running fitness during the craziness of the holiday season.
Leverage your lunch hour.
Winter often delivers shorter days and longer nights. If you enjoy getting your miles while the sun is out, this can throw a wrench into your regular routine. But, a little creativity and a slight alteration to your routine can help you get your fix.
Try leveraging your lunch hour during the hazy shades of winter. Regardless of where you live, it's likely this is the warmest time of day. Similarly, this is when you'll likely have the most daylight.
I've also found logging my miles during lunch hour almost inevitably results in a more lucid, productive afternoon.
It's not inclement weather, it's a 'developmental opportunity'.
It's easy to use inclement weather as an excuse to not run. Few runners I know actually enjoy running in rain, sleet, snow, or bitterly cold conditions. What's to enjoy about freezing your ass off or getting drenched?
I'm not going to claim running in nasty weather is fun (although sometimes it can be). But, try to reframe the experience of running in the snow, sleet, or rain. Don't think of it as inclement weather. Think of it as a 'developmental opportunity'.
Running in crappy weather presents a great 'opportunity' to develop mental toughness. A race almost NEVER gets canceled due to bad weather. So, it behooves you to have some experience logging the miles in less than ideal conditions.
To be clear, if the weather is legitimately dangerous, I am NOT saying you should run in it! But, 'most' inclement weather can be managed by adding a layer or two (or shedding a layer or two).
If the desire to get outside and log a few miles is being stifled by bitterly cold conditions, don't abandon all hope yet. Most runners don't warm up properly. If there's ever a time to do a quality warmup, it's when the conditions are frigid.
Try jogging in place (inside) for a few minutes. Follow this up with a few minutes of some dynamic range of motion drills. You might even try drinking a hot cup of tea while warming up.
After spending a solid 5-10 minutes warming up, put on your layers and head out. The hazy shades of winter will likely feel a bit more palatable.
Try the treadmill.
I often characterize the treadmill as a 'last resort'. If running outside is simply not possible due to the weather, safety, or some other valid reason, hop on the treadmill. If you are forced to use the treadmill, bump the incline 1-2% to better simulate running outside.
While I'm not a fan of the 'dreadmill', there's definitely some value in logging a few miles on one. If there's a specific pace you're trying to get a handle on, simply lock it in on the treadmill. This exercise can help you get a feeling for the cadence and level of effort associated with this pace.
If the weather makes it prohibitive to run outside, give the treadmill a shot.
Between holiday parties, travel, and family gatherings, you might simply find yourself struggling to find the time to run. While it may not be possible to train the way you have for most of this year, that doesn't mean running has to be jettisoned entirely. Get creative.
If you only have a 30 minute window, take advantage. Inject some fartlek or tempo into this 30 minutes to give you a bit more bang for the buck. If you play your cards right, a quality 30 minute run can go a long way.
If you can't get outside and if you don't have access to a treadmill, you can STILL do something that at least 'resembles' running. Sometimes, you've got to get creative. I've got a circuit routine I do in my living room on these rare, challenging occasions.
The routine entails running (in place) for 5 minutes. Then, I segue into a set of '4' drills. Each drill lasts 45 seconds. A core focused set of drills might include a standard plank, a left plank, a right plank, and a superman/woman.
Once I'm done with the drills, I segue back into running in place for 5 minutes. I'll usually do 30 minutes of running in place and 15 minutes of drills. I'm the first to admit, this is NOT the same as running. But, it's at least a vague approximation.
The holiday season presents all kinds of obstacles to maintaining your running routine. But, if you leverage a few of my 'hacks' above, you'll enter the new year with most (if not all) of the running fitness you've acquired this year.